Elder Mark A. Bragg discussed “Christlike Poise” at the April 2023 General Conference. How does one gain poise? How can poise benefit us in a turbulent world? What can we learn from how poised Christ was in His life? These are some of the questions that came to mind as I listened to Elder Bragg’s address.
What is Poise?
One definition of the word poise is “graceful and elegant bearing in person”. We hear the terms “unflappable”, “steady”, “calm”, “in control” when describing someone with poise.
A second definition is “balance; equilibrium”. Someone with poise seems to have everything balanced. There is a sense of equal in her/his manners and actions. People with poise seem to be “well put together”.
I’ve learned a lot of life lessons by playing soccer. Sports have been used extensively as a metaphor for life and being poised is no different. My position in soccer is usually outside or center midfielder. This means there is a responsibility to transition from defense to offense as well as control the field. I had to learn to be poised in my actions and reactions to better enable my team to succeed.
I learned a lot about poise in soccer when I would play on missionary preparation day in Chile. More experienced players would tell everyone either “tranquilo” or “calmado”. Both words mean to stay calm and in control. Even when being pressured by one or more opponents, staying calm allows a player the opportunity to recognize options and choose the best one. Those players that panic usually make mistakes and give the ball away.
The other lesson was to “pick my head up” when I received the ball. This has served me well not only in soccer, but life also. When a soccer player “picks up his/her head” he/she sees the field and can be intelligent about what to do next.
Once I learned the lesson, my play became better. I understood when to attack, when to hold the ball, and when to play the ball to another player. Having poise in soccer has led me to be an asset and not a liability with those I play.
Poise and Trials
Being pressured in soccer and remaining calm equates to having trials in life and remaining poised. Trials are given us to strengthen us, test our faith, and move us closer to being like Christ. How we handle trials is important and having poise during trials can help us navigate them with the help of the Holy Ghost.
In my life, I had to have the most poise when going through therapy for my addiction. It would have been real easy to panic when I wasn’t achieving all my goals. I could have lost my way if I did not stay poised and realize that the trials of overcoming addiction would lead me to be a better man, husband, father, brother, etcetera. When I fell down, I would always remember to get back up, and continue on the path.
We have several scriptural and historical examples of poise. One that I love is Nephi in Helaman chapters 7-9. In these chapters, Nephi has been rejected by the people in Zarahemla. He comes home and gets upon a tower built to oversee his yard or garden. From there he prays out loud for the people he loves. When others hear it, they marvel and Nephi is inspired by the Holy Ghost to preach unto them.
During the course of his preaching there are those who want Nephi arrested for reviling against their law. Nephi remains poised and continues to preach the message he is receiving from God. Then, Nephi tells the multitude of the murder of their Chief Judge. Men are sent to ascertain the validity of this prophecy. When those men arrive, they find the scene as Nephi described and are overcome and fall down unconscious. They are seized by those who come later as the murderers.
The people hear of the murder and those that stayed behind to hear more of Nephi inquire as to the whereabouts of the men sent to verify Nephi’s prophecy. After freeing the men and getting their statement, the accusers of Nephi allege that Nephi is in league with the murderer and that this was all planned out. Nephi, staying poised, gives them the name of the murderer and a way to draw the truth of the murder from him. The people follow Nephi’s instruction and the true murderer is found and Nephi’s name is cleared. Some even believe Nephi to be a prophet.
What would have happened if Nephi had not remained poised? I believe that the truth would have still come out, but the number of people who believed Nephi to be a prophet would have been fewer.
The Example of Jesus
Jesus Christ is our best example of remaining poised. There are multiple accounts of Him doing so. One that I find amazing is found in Luke 4:16-30. Christ has returned to Nazareth and is allowed to speak in the synagogue. During this reading and speaking, He proclaims himself to be the Messiah. The people are enraged and “thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.” They were going to kill him.
How many of us would have been panicked? How many of us would have been screaming our innocence? Or worse, how many of us would have just given up? The Savior did none of these things. The scripture tells us “But he passing through the midst of them went his way.”
I like the series “The Chosen“. In Season 3, this scene is depicted. I love the way it is portrayed. You can see it in episode 3 starting about minute 24. At the hill, when the judgment has been passed, and His friends are about to execute the law, Jesus looks at them and says “This isn’t going to happen. Not today.” and then walks “through the midst of them”. The people are stunned, but His poise and presence were enough to allow Him to not be touched.
Being poised means being elegant and graceful while having balance and equilibrium; to stay in control, even when the storms of life rage around you. It means “picking your head up” and seeing what is around you so that the best choice can be made. In this world, if more of us would obtain the skill of being poised, our lives would find more peace and we would find the strength to overcome the trials given.
Tips for Teaching
If you are teaching this topic, you might:
- Define the word poise and ask the class what they think it means. Have the class give examples of people who are poised, or times when they have witnessed poise in action.
- Discuss the examples of Nephi and Jesus stated above. Ask what characteristics both had that allowed them to show poise in their situations.
- Have the class list other examples from the scriptures where prophets and others have showed poise. Have them describe how poise helped the people overcome or persevere in their situation.
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